Currently tied for last place in the Red Rolfe Division, the Yale baseball team can make a significant leap in the standings as the Bulldogs welcome Dartmouth to New Haven for a four-game set.
The Elis (9–14, 2–6 Ivy), who were swept last weekend by Penn and Columbia, will host the defending division champion, the Big Green (6–19, 4–4), and hope to carry their momentum from Wednesday’s victory against Fairfield into this weekend’s series.
“It was nice to get back on track with a win [Wednesday], and I think that will help build momentum heading into the weekend,” pitcher Chris Lanham ’16 said. “We will have to do the same things this weekend that we did [against Fairfield]. We pitched and played defense very well, and we also had some clutch hits. If we can do that again, we will have a lot of success this weekend.”
Dartmouth, having split each of its series with opponents from the Lou Gehrig Division, currently sits atop the Ivy standings as the only team with a conference record of 0.500 or better. With no team pulling away as a clear frontrunner — only two games separate first and last place — Yale remains within striking distance of winning the division crown.
While four wins would allow the Bulldogs to jump the Big Green in the standings, first baseman Eric Hsieh ’15 said that the team cannot afford to look that far into the future.
“The team’s mindset right now is to take one game at a time [and] really focus on playing well that first game,” Hsieh said.
A pair of midweek games — the Wednesday win and a loss to Holy Cross the previous night — served as a tune-up for the entire lineup, giving both pitchers and batters more live action, according to right fielder and captain David Toups ’15. The Elis notched their first shutout of the season on Wednesday afternoon behind stellar outings from six different pitchers.
The pitching staff, in particular, will look to replicate its results this weekend, facing one of the weakest offensive teams in the Ivy League. Dartmouth enters the weekend with the conference’s lowest team batting average (0.238) and on-base percentage (0.286), as well as the second-worst slugging percentage (0.313).
The Big Green have yet to post a double-digit run total this season and average just 3.17 runs per game. The top two hitters that the Elis will need to look out for are shortstop Matt Parisi and left fielder Ben Socher, hitting 0.333 and 0.316, respectively.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, trot out a lineup that ranks third in the Ancient Eight in on-base percentage (0.366), in part a result of drawing 94 walks, second most in the conference. The lineup will be tested by a solid Dartmouth rotation featuring Duncan Robinson, who is now starting after earning an All-Ivy First Team selection as a relief pitcher last season.
Hsieh will look to continue his torrid start to the season and spark the Bulldog offense. Hsieh, who led off for the first time this season on Tuesday, ranks atop the entire conference with a 0.447 batting average, third in NCAA Division I baseball. The senior from Laguna Niguel, Calif. also boasts the best on-base percentage in the nation, topping out at an incredible 0.587, and was recently named to the midseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in the nation.
Last year, when the two teams met in Hanover, the Big Green took three of the four games, and Dartmouth has won 10 of the last 12 meetings overall. The Elis will look to reverse that trend this weekend in their quest for a division title and opportunity to play in the Ivy League Championship Series.
“The main key is to stay confident in our abilities. We have the talent to win this league,” Joe Lubanski ’15 said. “It is about taking that confidence onto the field with the game plan and tools we have developed in practice. If we can continue to hit it and pitch it like [Wednesday], we are set up for a very successful weekend.”
Yale opens its series against Dartmouth with a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon and another two-game set to follow on Sunday.